When Swedes finish school for the summer, we always sing the hymn "Den blomstertid" and it never fails to bring tears to your eyes even in today's secular society as it is just so traditional and such a wonderful praise of summertime - important to those of us on these northern latitudes. Besides, it becomes non-religious if you only sing the first verse. Already in the 18th century it was translated into Finnish ("Jo joutui armas aika") and also later into Norwegian and the melody itself is a traditional one used for many other lesser known hymns throughout history.
Until I had been to Lärbro, I had no idea that this huge chunk of my childhood was in fact created in the Gotland countryside (even if the hymn was reworked in the 19th century. Bishop Israel Kolmodin in Visby had to hold services at Lärbro regularly as part of his office, and once this included Ganns church ruin (see tip) where he arrived early and decided to go for a walk. He is said to have sat down by the well in the woods in the middle of the fields here and thought it so beautiful that he felt this hymn pouring out of him. I am very glad he did. When we were here, we were asked to sing it with each other and it was a very special feeling indeed, even if modern agriculture has changed the meadows around here compared to Kolmodin's days. You can still drink the water from the well though, and it is said to make you younger if you manage to throw a coin backwards onto a special rock in it before drinking.
I have no photo of this fantastic church ruin as I only passed it on a bus but you can see it on the weblink below. Built in the 13th century it functioned as the local church for a tiny village wealthy enough to have its own church. It then became too expensive to run and in the 16th century it was abandoned but still used for the odd service into the 17th century and it was from here that Bishop Kolmodin walked to the well and wrote the hymn I mentioned above. Its clock has been saved and can be seen at Bunge Open Air Museum in Fårösund whilst parts of its middle section was moved to nearby Fleringe Church. If you are interested in deserted churches, there is also one at Bara between Visby and Slite and another one at Elinghem.
Lärbro has one of Gotland's most interesting churches since it is octagonal. In Scandinavia, you only see this in two other church buildings; Helge And ruin in Visby and Trondheim Cathedral in Norway. This is interesting since St Olav is Trondheim and Norway's major saint and he is also the one thought to have brought Christianity to Gotland. There are ruins of a St Olav's Church not that far from Lärbro.
The church was built in the 13th century and another interesting thing is that it also has a 12th century "castal", i.e. defense tower, next to it. This was built for defense purposes as the name tells you, but today it is used as a bell tower and you can visit the inside summertime. The church interior looks very Danish which is hardly surprising when you consider that Gotland was taken over by the Danes in the 14th century. A lot of whitewashed walls with medieval paintings and a ship hanging from the ceiling reminded me of both Birkerød and Rønne churches. There is also an old funt as well as gravestones with Viking rune stones on - quite unusual. More stones are stood as you approach the church from the parking lot. The cemetary outside is not only for locals but has a whole Jewish section as well. This comes from Lärbro's history after WWII when the village received concentration camp victims and of course not all survived. In the Christian section there are also more Hungarian and Polish names from this sad time.